Monday, October 26, 2009

Relationship vs. Research - Part 2

We can pursue God by way of his written Word but should we approach the scriptures like we might a textbook? Rather than being a static archival manuscript, scripture is living. It is Spirit-given and to be received it must be done so via the Spirit. As we open our hearts and souls while looking into scripture, we find someone looking back at us. We should not presume to examine scripture if we do not offer ourselves to scripture for examination. The Word is more than data. It is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. We do not interpret the text so much as the text interprets us.
Initial vulnerability will require more vulnerability. Deep will call to deep. This approach to scripture is dangerous because such an encounter demands a response and we cannot remain unchanged without doing so in disobedience. But it is a wonderfully indescribable moment when first we discover the written Word to be more than a static historical document.
When we find it to be alive we are startled with shock and amazement. There is a resonance made apparent between the now and the eternal, between our spirit and his. The vulnerability invested pays off big and there comes a knowing that this intimacy is worth the risk. That is to say, we trust the one who is seeing us unveiled. In this moment of seeing and being seen, we are enlivened. In that moment we are powerfully alive and the God of scripture animates its pages, comes off the page, loosed from the cage of critical reasoning. He is alive. We are alive. Suddenly so many possibilities now seem evident.
Where has this God been? How has this Word been so neglected? How has this relationship been shelved for rhetoric? The emanating life force is astounding. It is alive. I feel it in me as the words of Jesus become an experiential reality, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” (Jn 15:4) NKJ
Oh, to be completely given to this moment, never to retreat into myself again, but ever make my retreat in him.
Don’t domesticate this. Don’t try to refine this. Don’t take a weed-eater, an edger or a hedge trimmer to this relationship. This encounter can abide the want of a sharp-edged doctrinal definition. Don’t sterilize this wild moment. Let the reader read and be read. Let the Creator create. Let the Giver give without our presuming restraints. If we offer our lives uninhibited, we will know him to be truly alive and alive in us. Let him come off the page, out of the outline, off the timeline. Give yourself to this moment of proleptic advantage. Let God out of the laboratory and he will not only prove himself alive but will take you with him in a marvelous experiential knowing of life.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Relationship vs. Research

God offers himself in terms of relationship. We rather like to believe he offers an academic discipline. Relationship requires personal risk and investment of soul. God lends himself in relationship but we approach him in terms of research. We would read up on God and get the facts. We would know about God. In fact, there is no lack of motivation here. We are genuinely curious and interested in learning about him.
Systematic theology is a pleasant and agreeable thing to us because it suggests God can be approached and understood systematically. This is comforting. We can master God if he is systematic. We will break him down into parts and subparts then systematically digest him. And if he can be systematically digested, he is relieved of divine mystery while we are released from obligation to a faith-based approach to God.
Faith seems less concrete. It’s like holding on to a wet bar of soap. One must hold on, but with less than absolute containment. Faith seems more fluid than fact-based investigation. Faith allows for unanswered questions, logical contradictions, dichotomy. Reason insists on resolution while relationship can abide enduring dialectical tension. Cool-headed observation at arm’s length offers a supposed and venerated objectivity, but personal engagement and vulnerability are required for relationship.
Factual analysis seems less risky than faith. Rational inquiry is not as sticky as the vulnerability required for relationship. If I observe God with emotional distance I can protect my heart. I can suppress the engagement of subjective feelings. I cannot be hurt (and I cannot be helped). I look, but I will not be looked upon. I investigate, but will not be investigated. I judge, but will not be judged. I am looking for answers, but I am not honest about my questions. I am dishonest in my pursuit of the Holy because honest pursuit requires an openness of self which offends my sense of privacy and self-preservation. Open my heart in pursuit of a lover? Open my heart with obvious desire clouding objective thinking? And if I am open, can’t I be hurt?

If I really want to know God, I must brave the risk of vulnerable transparency and be prepared for the unexpected.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

One for the Tabernacle of the Sun

There is little distance between God and his earth. He is on hand, on sight, if seemingly out of sight.Though some would confine him there, his presence is not exclusive to the church house. Like a young child with lungs filled with air and eyes filled with wonder, he can’t stay there. He’s one for the tabernacle of the sun and walks the “big lonesome”. If he wore shoes they would be hiking shoes. He’s the outdoor type, sports a healthy grin, has a hearty laugh – likes to touch you when he talks. He looks into your eyes, your soul, lets you finish your sentences and speak from your un-gathered thoughts.

Maintaining little obligation to be a particular way for you, he is who he is and he is likable. He’s got an appetite and uses his hands. He’s got good stories. He is right there on the surface but too deep to sound. He’s got an office, but it’s hard to catch him there. He prefers the outside of the cage. Of course He doesn’t sleep, but if he did I bet he would sleep with the windows open. And if he slept, I’m thinking he would like camping out.

He craves life for us, inviting us not only live, but live vigorously. “Engage life”, he seems to say, though life spots few guarantees other than this: engagement is better than disengagement. So, don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. This is not to suggest foolish carelessness, but if you would get on with life, you are likely to get a little of life on you, so don't wear white pants. Be less tentative. Jump in. It will not begin sooner. Remember the adage, “Fate usually dances with someone already on the dance floor”.

Unfortunately, we are over domesticated as kids. It is especially unfortunate for church kids who are domesticated with an oppressive spirituality that says, “Connect with the Giver of life, but stay disconnected with life itself”, as if life and the Giver of life were antithetical. But the child has a God-given desire to play outside, climb, run, throw something, act, explore. The child (and the adult) hear the call of life summon, “Come experience”. But having been taught to ignore this incitement to life we disassociate it with God, believing that to be fully engaged in life, we must do so apart from God. We sense that God must be a churchy someone, a starchy Sunday personality, parenthetical to life.

But he is not parenthetical to life. He is life. Life was his idea. It was his dream that you would live life heartily without a dualistic sense or tentative reluctance and second guessing. Respond positively and purposefully to his invitation or be careful that supposed starchy someone doesn’t loosen his collar, pull off his tie and pop you with it.